Cervical Screening Test (formerly Pap Smear) & Colposcopy

Cervical Screening Test (formerly Pap Smear) & Colposcopy

The Cervical Screening Test has replaced the Pap Smear from December 2017 as part of the National Cervical Screening Program.

The Cervical Screening Test is a new and simple test that detects the HPV virus which can cause particular changes to the cells of a woman’s cervix (the neck of the womb). These changes may lead to cervical cancer if left untreated.

It is recommended that all women aged between 25 and 74 years who have ever been sexually active should have a Cervical Screening Test every 5 years, even if they have had the HPV vaccine. Some women may need to continue the Cervical Screening Test, even after the uterus has been removed.

Colposcopy is a specialized investigation for women who have an abnormal Cervical Screening Test. Colposcopy uses a microscope to help identify abnormal cells on the cervix. Most women undergo this test with minimal discomfort. Following this test, we can recommend the appropriate method of treatment.

Pap-Smear

FAQ’s

What is a Cervical Screening Test (formerly Pap Smear)?

The Cervical Screening Test has replaced the Pap Smear from December 2017 as part of the National Cervical Screening Program.

The Cervical Screening Test is a new and simple test that detects the HPV virus which can cause particular changes to the cells of a woman’s cervix (the neck of the womb). These changes may lead to cervical cancer if left untreated.

It is recommended that all women aged between 25 and 74 years who have ever been sexually active should have a Cervical Screening Test every 5 years, even if they have had the HPV vaccine. Some women may need to continue the Cervical Screening Test, even after the uterus has been removed.

What is colposcopy?

A colposcopy is a specialised examination; that is performed after abnormalities are noted on the PAP smear or if a women reports abnormal bleeding, particularly after sex. A colposcopy is a more accurate diagnostic test because the doctor can perform a closer inspection of the cervix under magnification.

You do not require any special preparation for this test. However, it cannot be performed if are having your period. This test is similar to a PAP smear, however it takes longer time. A special microscope called a colposcope is used to examine for abnormal cells on the uterine cervix. A weak vinegar and / or an iodine dye solution is applied to the cervix to highlight the abnormal cells. A further biopsy can be performed at this stage to collect a sample for histopathological diagnosis.

Few women may experience discomfort similar to period pain during or after the procedure. You may find it helpful to take a painkiller an hour before the procedure to minimise discomfort.

Following the procedure you should

  • wear a pad for a few days as you can expect discharge from the iodine dye used
  • avoid sexual intercourse
  • avoid swimming, bathing and spas for 3 days to avoid infections

How do I prevent Cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer is caused by certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV). It is a common virus that can be found in 4 out of 5 people who have ever been sexually active. HPV is extremely common in our community and is easily spread. For most people, our body is capable of dealing with this virus and it goes away on its own. When the virus does not go away, then it may lead to the development of cervical cancer. It often takes more than ten years to develop cervical cancer, thus the importance of the Cervical Screening Test which aims to detect changes at a pre-cancerous stage. There are hundreds of subtypes of HPV. However, there are four main sub-types (16, 18, 6 and 11) which are responsible for cervical and genital changes.

What vaccines are available to prevent cervical cancer?

A new vaccine, developed in Australia, is the only vaccine that may help guard against diseases caused by HPV

  • HPV Types 16 and 18 are responsible for 70 percent of cervical cancer cases and
  • HPV Types 6 and 11 cause 90 percent of genital warts cases.

It is recommended to vaccinate prior to the commencement of any sexual activity, and is therefore indicated for women aged 9 to 26 years of age. It may be given after commencement of sexual activity because it would be unlikely that one is infected with all 4 types of HPV, and it may be able to prevent the more serious (cancer-producing) types of HPV. Vaccination against HPV is available at most GP practices.

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